Days of Change

Bye, Bye

August 17, 2016
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Since John McLaughlin started hosting The McLaughlin groups decades ago, he only missed one show. That was this weekend. He died a few days later. McLaughlin and his show, which were basically inseparable, were a major influence on my understanding of politics. With two liberals and two conservatives plus a host who was conservative, the show had a rare balance for a show that aired on PBS.

For me, a lot of the magic was in the classic lineup, Jack Germond, Elanor Clift, Fred Barnes, and possibly Pat Buchanan when he wasn’t running for president. That was usually the group in the Saturday Night Live sketches on the 1990’s. I happen to like this installment of SNL because it features Chris Farley doing a rare appearance as Jack Germond.

I stopped watching because of time slot changes and the newer crop of up and comers in the conservative movement who revolved in and out.  I guess John was still John until the end.


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Every Reason I Can’t Vote for Trump

August 17, 2016
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Magical Thinking

August 16, 2016
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One of the few things Trump supporters have left is the use of Donald Trump’s unlikely nomination by the Republican Party as a template for making lightning strike twice. One of the reasons I don’t predict Trump’s epic loss in November is that I predicted his primary defeat when the RNC would pressure all the non-Cruz candidates to drop out. They never did that. Instead, Rubio stayed in long enough to be defeated by Trump in Florida and John Kasich stayed long enough to ensure the nomination he now whines about constantly. I misjudged the hatred of Cruz by the RNC and now they have to scramble to save enough Senate seats to block a Clinton presidency.

While I understand all the “Hillary Clinton is evil” arguments and that some people are holding their nose and voting Trump, I don’t feel it at a gut level. I can’t even get angry about the prospect of President Clinton 2 because the Republicans squandered such a great opportunity.

Maybe Trump has some grand plan to fool everyone. Maybe the elections are all rigged. Maybe Trump is an egomaniac Svengali who finally ran out of magic dust. In any case, I won’t be biting my nails over the elections results.


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Glenn Beck’s History

August 15, 2016
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Glenn Beck became a national figure around 2009 when he left a low-rated talk show gig on CNN’s Headline News to fill Fox News’ 5 pm time slot of death. His first guest was Sarah Palin, just a couple of months after the 2008 election. Beck then caught on to the Tea Party movement that started in the early spring. His show was often filled with historical anecdotes and the shadowy history of Barack Hussein Obama.

While Beck was almost as popular as Bill O’Reilly, his content made the network uneasy and Beck used his popularity and resources to start a network that covered radio, internet streaming and the satellite networks who decided to carry The Blaze TV.

Beck managed to make a lot of enemies when he endorsed Ted Cruz for the Republican nomination. Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck were adversaries by then and her endorsement of Donald Trump a few days earlier made his endorsement a desired consolation prize. As part of Never Trump, Beck became the keynote speaker at Redstate: The Gathering.

Beck compares the Ted Cruz speech (and the NeverTrump reaction in general) to the story of Charles Sumner, a Massachusetts Senator who was nearly beaten to death by a pro-slavery Representative from South Carolina.

Beck compares Sumner to Ted Cruz as being lone figures trying to end an amoral system. Sumner was a radical, opposing both Lincoln and Grant at different times. In 1856, he gave a speech about the imposition of slavery on Kansas and comparing fellow Senator Andrew Butler of pimping out the harlot of slavery. Butler was the second cousin of Preston Brooks, who felt Sumner had attacked his family’s honor.

For whatever reason, Beck tells a story where Sumner gives the speech and Brooks grabs a cane and starts beating Sumner. Worse yet, no one else in the chamber comes to Sumner’s aid, forcing him to take refuge under a desk until Brooks breaks his cane over Sumner’s broken body. Brooks is never punished for his action.

In reality, Sumner gave the speech without incident. Brooks took his ire to Laurence Massillon Keitt, a fellow Congressman, looking for the proper response. Keitt suggested that Sumner was not worthy of a duel and that he should merely be beaten like a dog (or a slave). Keitt’s sense of honor was questionable, given that he tried to strangle another legislator two years later.

The beating started in a nearly empty chamber where Brooks clocked Sumner in the back of the head. Instead of the desk protecting him, it actually acted as a cage as it was bolted to the floor. Brooks’ friend Keitt prevented any assistance by holding everyone back with both a gun and a cane. Fittingly, the pugnacious Keitt was killed in the Civil War. Brooks resigned his seat, only to be reelected, but died before taking office again. Sumner eventually recovered from the beating after two years and returned to Congress where he served until his death in 1874. He saw the death of the Confederate South and both the men responsible for his savage beating.

Beck’s version of the story is of a man without a party. Sumner was actually an early Republican and stayed with the party for the rest of his life. He was mostly hated by the South. Ironically, the attack by Brooks and the subsequent taunting by the Southern congressmen accelerated the Civil War which would end slavery in the United States.

I find it interesting that Beck uses this story to fit his narrative, rather than the more interesting historical reality. Even better, he used this same story three years ago as an allegory to Rand Paul. In that version, Brooks ripped the desk from its bolted foundation and Sumner came back three years later to “finish the speech.”


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Donald Trump Has the Best Rallies… and Nothing Else

August 14, 2016
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Donald Trump’s father Fred Trump made money by owning real estate. Donald made money from real estate. He’s obviously not a self-made man. However, Trump has built a flimsy empire on the use of his own name, either in deals or simply licensing his name to real estate seminars known as “Trump University” or any number of foreign manufactured products. His fame is his one claim to fame.

Being a rich person all his life made Donald Trump aware of how much people want things from rich people. Most of the wealthy avoid the poor and the working class because of those demands. Trump decided to cultivate their desires to satisfy his ego. Now, we’ve reached the pinnacle of that relationship. Donald Trump is running for president by making people think he can give them something and poor people supporting him because he has things and is beholden to no one.

As it stands today, Trump is behind slightly in national polls and behind heavily in state polls. If you believe that all the polls are biased, maybe Trump would use his massive influence to produce Trump University polls or maybe start a Trump Wins Everything polling agency. Respondents who choose Hillary Clinton over Trump can expect to be sued, called a failure and face hoards of supporters threatening them on social media.

Since alternative polling would cost money, most Trump supporters fall back to the massive rallies he holds and how that somehow represents the landslide coming. Now, I get to use math.

I’ve seen estimates all over the place for events, from five thousand to thirty thousand. Let’s use a baseline of 15,000, which is pretty big and a weekly number of 4 (he only has 2 next week). Lets’ say there are 14 weeks in the general election season. That would be 60,000 people a week and a total of 840,000 people going to Trump rallies, assuming most people only go to one.

In the last presidential election, 129 million voters cast ballots. 840,000 represents 0.65% of that total. Gary Johnson had more people than that vote for him. If we triple the attendance, which would make every rally more highly attended than any actual Trump rally, we would still have less than 2% of the electorate.

During the primaries, Trump stuck out in a field of multiple Republican politicians. His 30% floor of support won him a number of winner-take-all contests. 20,000 people going to a rally on Monday and voting in a primary on Tuesday made a difference. It may be fun to compare a packed stadium full of Trump supporters to a half empty banquet hall of Hillary Clinton supporters, but she’s having the last laugh. She is spending campaign money on ads that will be seen by more people in a day than all the Trump rallies attended this year.


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Don’t Let Trump Be Trump

August 13, 2016
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I am probably in the minority these days, but I consider George W. Bush to be an authentic conservative. He was a Christian conservative, something that was beaten out of the party over the last few years. Even given that, Bush managed to stabilize the economy after the tech bubble of the late 1990’s and the post-9/11 recession, but did not have enough time to do anything about the global economic crisis near the end of his administration. As for Iraq, I’ve written about that plenty, and Donald Trump’s theories are one reason I think he sucks as a candidate.

If you look at the 2008 slate of GOP candidates, any one of them could be called a “RINO” except for maybe Alan Keyes, who tried to stop the ascension of Barack Obama in 2004. When McCain won, he considered picking Joe Lieberman as his VP, but decided to bring in a conservative and a woman instead. He got clobbered. The campaign was blamed. Mitt Romney ran and got beaten slightly less badly and the campaign was blamed.

For Republicans, you run to the right in the primaries and run to the center in the general election. That didn’t seem to do the job in the last couple of elections, so now we’re trying running to the right and the center at the same time. Donald Trump didn’t just try to be the most conservative, he one-upped everyone. Immigration wasn’t enough. He wanted to build a wall. Enhanced interrogation, which has legal groundwork, wasn’t enough. He wanted to torture people, which is in violation of treaties and probably the Constitution since American citizens could fall under that definition.

At least McCain and Romney conceded some ground to conservatives while trying to attract disaffected Democrats. Trump is targeting the people who are out of work or have crappy jobs by promising the kind of union jobs (without the word union) that have been replaced by robots. Remember when Obama complained about ATM machines taking away jobs? Even he didn’t promise to make tellers great again.

So, if there is any chance of righting this ship, it is to tell Trump to scoop out the word salad exiting his brain pan and replace it with prepared remarks. The next time he ignores those rules, Reince Priebus needs to tell all Republicans to vote for a Republican governor, Gary Johnson.


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I’d Say DEFCON 2

August 12, 2016
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The Free Market has decided. While Donald Trump is sort of keeping up with Hillary Clinton in individual donations, big money donors are starving PACs that would normally be telling everyone about Clinton’s failures. Trump giving a speech about Obama and Clinton being the co-founders of ISIS isn’t going to cut it.

Most GOP insiders have given up on the Trump campaign. The true believers (literally the only people Trump is even trying to appeal to) are giving the same excuses about lousy polls that I did in 2012 about Romney. Except in the case of Mitt Romney, he had an outside chance until about the third debate.

My guess is that the party is at DEFCON 2. They’re going to take another run at cleaning up Donald Trump. That’s not a good bet, given that even Trump is now looking low energy. He’s talking about what he does if he loses and begging people in a gravelly voice to not let Hillary choose the Supreme Court.

DEFCON 1 should be fun. I suspect it will be after the first debate and the GOP will literally pay Trump with whatever’s left in their bank to drop out so they can lose with a different candidate.


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Climb Tiny Mountains

August 11, 2016
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A true athlete constantly has to challenge himself. Great athletes want to challenge themselves and jump higher hurdles and do it faster and better. The part time athlete just tries to be in good enough shape to do the same thing year after year. I know. I live in a city that holds the same road race year after year.

A cornerstone in the legend of Donald Trump is the story of the Wollman Ice Skating Rink in New York City. This started as a renovation plan by the Koch administration in 1980. The time frame was two years and the budget anywhere from $5-$9 million. That would have been fairly reasonable. After 6 years, $13 million had been spent and the rink had not been completed.

Donald Trump challenged Mayor Ed Koch to turn the project over to him and he would finish it in six months for $3 million. Instead, it was finished in four months for just over $2 million. One dimension of this story has been beaten into the ground. Donald Trump can make things happen that government can’t do because of his business acumen. In reality, this is a story that parallels the current election in a number of ways.

First, there is setting low expectations and achieving them like a lazy athlete. this Bloomberg article points out that Koch and the Comptroller overseeing the project were at war with each other. Companies involved disbanded. People died in the middle of the project. Also, the city was bloated and incompetent. In the following years, NYC has become more efficient while staying incompetent. Anyone who was handed the project without interference could have finished it for a couple million, as it was basically done.

For Trump, publicity is priceless. He made whatever was left from the $3 million out of the deal. Koch made sure all the money made at the rink would go to charity. What Wollman did, however, was make Trump a hero to the city, bolstering the lawsuits he had already initiated with them to get tax breaks for real estate projects. He may not be the biggest real estate developer, but he’s the one you can name.

Fighting divided government is a great battle strategy. Donald Trump averaged 35% of the popular vote in the GOP primaries until he was the only one left running. Then he got up to 44%. He was able to get Wollman Rink because Koch and people in his government were in open warfare.

Trump is able to make a big deal out of small wins. His unexpected opening of Wollman and his unexpected winning of the GOP nomination are still being talked about. However, Trump still fails and those failures are often excused away. Now, they’re blamed on the media. Let’s see how this adventure plays out.


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Worser Case Scenario

August 10, 2016
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This election stinks on ice.

A number of people (especially Trump supporters) are enjoying the freak show aspect of this election. I assume that will change with a Hillary Clinton victory. While she could have been beaten by a Republican ham sandwich, the GOP couldn’t even manage to get a candidate of that caliber nominated.

When I write about Indifference 2016, it’s not as a fan of chaos, but as someone who truly can’t pick between two evils from the major parties. Trump supporters seem to think we are enacting Atlas Shrugged, where a Ayn Rand superman is going to trigger the collapse of a failed society to force a better economic and social system in its place. That is simply the right-wing version of the Cloward-Piven Strategy.

All the polls show Trump doing worse than Romney did in 2012 at this point and possibly as badly as John McCain in 2008. I jumped on the fake poll bandwagon in 2012 (and to some extent in 2008) where “the media” was rigging the polls to over-sample Democratic Party sympathizers. Both times, the outcome matched the polls. In the general election, there won’t be 4-6 candidates to split the vote. There might not even be 3 right now. Trump’s name recognition won’t get him over 47%.

When Barack Obama won the White House and the Democrats held Congress, the Republicans fought the administration like never before (or since). They filibustered almost everything. That fighting spirit drew what became the Tea Party to the GOP. Unfortunately, the Tea Party became obsessed with people’s purity and witch hunts over RINOs. Now we have Trump, who only fights and has no Republican credentials to turn RINO over.

As bad as Obama is, we never got the FEMA camps or the martial law his opponents promised in 2008. There are only 4 Bush or Reagan appointees left on the Supreme Court. None of them are going anywhere for the next 4 years. In the Republican obsession for the Big Enchilada, we now have a Senate dangerously close to a 50-50 deadlock. Those are the guys who ultimately decide who sits on the Court.

The worst part of this presidential election is that the President is the all powerful Oz. The president should have power limited in scope, but that has grown over the years with the consent of the parties. The president I want at this point is one who is willing to limit his own power. That’s Gary Johnson.


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The Trumpers Are Revolting

August 9, 2016
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I think for many Republicans, opposing Trump is a two-for-one deal. Trump personifies every stereotype of the combative, ill-informed, racist-adjacent caricature the media has created for the conservative movement. Aside from that, Trump’s campaign is a dog, missing the vital characteristics of a real campaign where each party has to basically fight like junkyard dogs for the 3-4% of American voters who might change their minds between the conventions and Election Day. Donald Trump both deserves to lose and has an excellent chance of losing.

The newest flash point for the AlwaysTrump crowd is Evan McMullin, a generic hairless figure who can only legally get on half the ballots at this point and never ran as a Republican for anything. William F. Buckley essentially created the Conservative Party and the National Review wants to create one, too.

For me, I have to throw my support to a candidate who has some chance and who is not repulsive to me. Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party fills that role. NeverTrump has unfortunately decided that the perfect is better than the good and plans to go down with a ship lacking any passengers.

What’s fun to watch is the meltdown of Trump supporters who thought that a hostile takeover of the GOP would spark a revolutionary landslide for Cheeto Jesus. That has not happened. In fact, Hillary is regularly getting 10 point leads in polls. The conclusion is clear.

Trump needs the entire Republican Party to vote for him to even have a chance of winning.

Ace at Ace of Spades has written a piece of Trump-sized delusion about Trump opponents being emotional, angry and acting dumb. For Ace, the “smart” move would be to issue “no comment” about voting for Trump while waiting for Trump to lose so they can leave their hands clean. In other words, they want Never Trump to be the kind of backstabbing assholes they think those people are already.

Here’s what it sounds like to me. Like Trump himself, AlwaysTrump is trying to bully their opposition. Trump is trailing consistently and they hope that shutting up the Republican opposition for Trump will raise his polls high enough to drag him over the line. In reality, they are probably trying to fatten up a sacrificial goat to excuse nominating a guy whose money essentially comes from branding his name to shoddy merchandise.

I would possibly be willing to hold my nose and vote for Trump, but he would have to apologize to his primary opponents for eschewing ideas for personal attacks and consider resigning in January so that he can keep his name in the presidential history books as a lesson. I can understand those who feel like they have to vote for him against Hillary Clinton. I just can’t stand the ones who are gleefully walking into the suicide voting booth for Trump.


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